"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Persecuted Church Past and Present

With the recent news of a demented and demonic Saudi fatwa demanding the destruction of all churches in the Arab peninsula, one is confronted yet again with the ugly intolerance of Islam and its willingness to countenance violence towards those it deems its enemies. Eastern Christians have, for more than a thousand years, been on the front-lines of such barbaric treatment. As the old saying has it: plus ça change, la plus c'est la même chose. 

When it comes to the question of Christian persecution, there has never been a period in history when it has not been going on, often on a vast scale; but the last one hundred years saw more persecution and suffering than many other centuries combined. World Watch's 2011 report on the 50 worst countries for persecution of Christians makes for very grim reading. Much of that suffering befalls Eastern Christians, often in Islamic territories. E.g., how many people are aware that almost a million Christians have been forced to flee Iraq since the war started in 2003? How many people realize that the so-called Arab Spring has brought not life but death to many Coptic Christians, forcing well over 100,000 of them to flee? Where is the outrage?

A new book examines cases of persecution in our time: Baroness Cox and Benedict Rogers, Very Stones Cry Out: The Persecuted Church: Pain, Passion and Praise (Continuum, 2011), 168pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. Many face widespread and systematic persecution. The Very Stones Cry Out is a passionate challenge to the rest of the Church, and all advocates of religious freedom, to break their silence on this issue. Baroness Cox presents graphic photographs and survivors' accounts as testimony to widespread destruction, and provides powerful documentary evidence of contemporary persecution. Featuring contributions from those with on the ground experience of the nations concerned, this book details the impact that sustained persecution has on individuals, families and communities. In doing so, it provides a moving account of resilience in the face of destruction, and joy in spite of trials, making this a book that is as much about celebration as it is about challenge.
While taking a global perspective, the book focuses on countries with large Eastern Christian populations, including Egypt (ch. 5), India (6), Iran (8), and Iraq (9).

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